Pastors' Conference speakers exhort Christians to stand firm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--With a generation of prominent Southern Baptist leaders passing from the scene, the next generation of pastors needs to rise up to deal with the nation's cultural crisis, Ergun Caner said June 19 at the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference.

"All the men who have led us are slowly transitioning to glory; now it's our time," said Caner, dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and professor of theology and church history at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

While acknowledging the importance of the emergence of younger generations, Caner also was quick to condemn those who try to push the aging leaders aside.

Caner was one of six speakers to address the conference's opening session June 19 and the morning session June 20. Other speakers included Vines, Voddie Baucham, Don Miller, Mac Brunson and Junior Hill.

Caner asked why evangelicals, 55 million strong in the United States, aren't more effective in transforming the culture.

"It's because we failed to pass the baton; it's because we have somehow forgotten what it took to get us here," Caner said.

Pastors must respect their elders, cling to the cross, preach the old-school way, stand unapologetically and be the people of God, Caner said. They must "quit whining, quit complaining, quit running. Take the heat. He died for you; stand for Him."

Baucham, a Houston-area evangelist, said Christians must reclaim intellectual ground they retreated from years ago by being equipped to give reasoned answers about the Bible.

The most important question Christians can answer is, "Why do you choose to believe the Bible?" Baucham said.

"Here's the answer. I'll give it to you and I'll unpack it for you: I choose to believe the Bible because it's a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report to supernatural events in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin."

Baucham said the Apostle Peter's words in 2 Peter 1:16-21 lay the foundation of an argument for the Bible's authority -- the disciples did not follow "cleverly devised tales" but "men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."

Vines, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., preached a message from Ecclesiastes in which Solomon, as the aging king of Israel, described the ways he had sought to satisfy his soul -- such as learning, laughter, luxury and lust.

Of learning, Vines said there is nothing wrong with education. But, he cautioned, "The modern educational system in America is a mess. In modern education in America, we have dethroned God and we have deified man.... You cannot satisfy the human soul with mere education."

Vines added that Solomon indulged in mirth, pleasure and hedonism but found them lacking.

"America is pleasure-mad," Vines said. "[There's] nothing wrong with having a good time, but you see, at the end of the old pleasure road is the abyss of insanity."

Similarly, luxury and lust fail to satisfy the human soul, Vines said. He encouraged pastors to heed the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 12:1: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth."

"Take this world; give me Jesus," Vines said.

Miller, of Bible-Based Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, took the pastors on a trip through the Gospel of Luke to demonstrate how Jesus was the greatest prayer warrior of all time.

"Jesus was tired. What did He do? He prayed," Miller said. "He didn't go to a counselor; He withdrew to get alone with His Father. He didn't go hunting or on vacation. He knew exactly where to get His help. Jesus needed help from above."

Miller challenged pastors to spend a tenth of their time -- roughly two and a half hours each day -- in prayer.

"Turn off the TV set," he said. "Nothing but trash comes off those tubes. Nothing else really matters but Him."

Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, affirmed pastors' responsibility of preaching biblically but said they also need to be devoted to ministry and mission.

"No one ever really talks to us about our personal ministry to people, and especially to one another," Brunson said.

Brunson emphasized the importance of missions on a global scale.

"We are only successful when we are on mission," Brunson said. "God didn't just call you to preach. He called you to minister, and part of ministry is missions. Your ministry at home should never negate your ministry around the world."

Hill, an evangelist from Hartselle, Ala., warned pastors about the discouragement that comes during difficult and frustrating times. He said pastors are to endure hardships and not expect an easy life.

"The truth of the matter is that serving Jesus is a rather difficult task," Hill said.

Hill also exhorted his listeners not to become entangled in the culture.

"There's nothing in the world more subtly dangerous for a man or woman of God than to let the world influence you to be diverted from what God's called you to do," Hill said.


Compiled by Tim Ellsworth, with reporting by Jerry Pierce, Keith Hinson, Brent Thompson & Gary Myers.

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